Harps of a feather, pluck together.

Well it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post. I’ve been busy gallivanting around Great Britain on (mostly) harp related bits and bobs. There is a lot to report since my last update.

This post is becoming mammoth so I’m going to have to split it up into smaller sections…

Firstly, I got my photos back from my solo shoot with Julie Harris. I will be getting more from this shoot soon but I wanted to share the first two with you:

credit: Julie Harris
credit: Julie Harris
credit: Julie Harris
credit: Julie Harris

What other news is there… oh yes! My last blog post ‘How to make your grass greener’ has been featured on The Media Directory – don’t believe me? Check it out at http://www.themediadirectory.com/news?shownews=399

In terms of playing, a lot has been going on as well. A few Saturdays ago I had the pleasure of visiting my home city of York to play Sibelius’ First Symphony with York Guildhall Orchestra under Simon Wright. For once, there were two harps in the orchestra! Principle Harp was played by Georgina Wells – I’ve known Georgie since she tutored at a youth orchestra I used to attend so it is a real treat to play in orchestra with her. We had a great time:

The experience of playing in an orchestra is so different when you are not alone in your section. I am so used to being the only harpist that playing second harp actually brought a few challenges that I don’t usually experience. As well as watching the conductor, the music and, if I’m lucky, my hands – I also need to watch Georgina for important entries to make sure we play exactly together. I do not have enough eyes for this task!

Having said that, beefing up the harp section is so much fun – on my own, pretty much everything has to be at least mezzo forte to come across to an audience. With two harps, you can bring the music to life so much more. Even in piano passages, you can be confident that the harps will be heard. It’s great!

But away from the concert platform, having someone else in the section brings a social aspect to the day too. We chat about how we want to play certain sections, which chords to spread and which to leave straight, we help each other unpack and move harps. It becomes a team game. Harpists are often only in one or two pieces in a concert, so this means a large proportion of the day is spent alone. Now, I’m not about to start complaining about that, I happen to like my own company, thank you very much. But it makes a wonderful change to be part of a section – maybe go for a meal together in the break and share stories of bizarre gigs we’ve done, things we’d like to do etc.

So all in all, this was a lovely day, I’m playing in York again in early April and I’m looking forward to it already – or I will be, once I’ve learnt the notes.

Valentine’s Day. What’s the big deal? Restaurants are packed and more expensive than usual, everyone seems to feel this pressure to do something. I’m secretly glad I usually have a gig on this day. My boyfriend and I went for dinner the previous Tuesday to celebrate an anniversary. He proved the theory that the most exciting gifts come in little packages…

But anyway, I’m going off-topic. For Valentine’s Day I was booked to provide background music at The Florentine restaurant in Sheffield. I did not enjoy the drive there. I opted for Woodhead Pass as it’s a little less snakey than Snake Pass. However, once I got to Sheffield, my satnav took me up Hagg Hill. A word of advice – avoid this hill! I attempted it in second gear and immediately stalled. In the dark. A car behind me also turned onto the hill and followed me as I crawled up to the top, where I had to turn right.

The restaurant seemed really lovely. I was given a divine meal of beef with parsley risotto and goats cheese bonbons, and the staff were very friendly and helpful with the harp. I played for a couple of hours then drove back to Manchester. It is so interesting watching couples having dinner on Valentine’s Day. I saw at least one couple arguing. One woman was despairing because her man was so drunk. One couple brought two young loud toddlers to the restaurant (why??) and many couples were turned away because they hadn’t booked a table (rookie mistake on Valentine’s Day).

Personally I prefer to stay away from the expensive meals out on February 14th and cook something really nice with someone special, maybe get a nice bottle of wine, and just spend some time together… Cash definitely does not need to be splashed in order to incite romance.

But that’s just my opinion.

Well that’s it for this post but more will be coming soon! I’m not even close to being up to date with gig reports… As always, watch this space.

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How to make your grass greener.

Ok, this isn’t a post about gardening, sorry to anyone who stumbles across this post looking for lawn maintenance tips.

Having worked in retail, and in various roles as a musician, the phrase the grass is always greener on the other side comes to mind from time to time.

When you’re a freelancer, it’s so easy (pretty much unavoidable) to dream of the pension plans, stable income, job benefits, and general security that come with a full-time job. I’ve been there, I went and got the job. But when you’re on the other side of the fence expecting the wonderful life of having a payday each month, suddenly you begin to dream of the freedom to follow your passion, to travel, to be creative everyday, to not have a boss to contend with (my boss was lovely by the way!)

Basically, whatever you do, there’s always going to be a tempting alternative. So I think, instead of always looking around the next corner to see if something better is on the horizon, why don’t we look around us now and think ‘ok, how can I make my current situation better for myself?’ That way we won’t end up running so far from one extreme that we tumble off the other.

Do you remember that film called ‘The Secret’? A lot of people dismiss it as nonsense but in my opinion a lot can be learned from its principles. We have to be grateful for all the good things in our lives in order for us to have more to be grateful for. We need to do more of what we love and move in that direction. So for me, I love orchestral playing, I also want to travel. I love writing my blog and may someday investigate doing some sort of freelance writing. I love the freedom of setting my own schedule, fixing my own diary and taking responsibility for myself. I need to focus on these things that I love and do as much of them as I possibly can.

Things I’m not so keen on – feeling skint all the time. Well… I was still skint when I had my retail job. Also, you don’t need money to be happy – it helps – but I believe you can be happy when you’re low on funds. The skint-ness can be fixed by careful spending (check) and working harder (an ongoing process). As I’ve mentioned before, I have a wonderful app on my iPhone called Budget – Back in Black. So as long as I keep a record of income and outgoings, and stick to my savings goals, I can sort of trust that the money will come if I keep focussing on doing what I love. To a certain extent I can stop worrying about the money side of things. Worry is such a useless emotion.

Anyhoo…

I guess a good goal would be to stop wishing to be on the other side of the fence, and instead for each of us to cultivate our own side to the extent that we wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.

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